The Covid-19 pandemic changed how we live life and do business. Before the pandemic, we were shoulder to shoulder and face to face. There were no masks, and social distancing wasn’t a thing. Then, the pandemic hit, and everything changed.
We were once a hustling and bustling culture that did business within close quarters, and then we became distant and had to make remote collaborations work. Offices that once held lots of people stood empty. The call was for people to stay safe by staying home. Then, the entire world stood still as the pandemic caused our officials to shut down everything.
Yet, as we all stayed home to mitigate the spread of the illness, we still needed to make a living. Bills weren’t going away, and food needed to be purchased.
Table of Contents
- Remote Collaboration Is on the Rise
- Setting Communication Norms for Collaboration
- 4 Practical Strategies to Promote Remote Collaboration
- Final Thoughts
Remote Collaboration Is on the Rise
Living under these conditions gave rise to remote workers and remote collaborations. It kept businesses open and people employed. In light of all the remote work standards enacted during the pandemic, companies discovered the advantages of using remote collaboration to expand despite the unfortunate circumstances.
The challenges shifted from a desperate need to redefine how business was done to effectively working remotely while creating a culture around healthy remote collaboration. This article will give you tips, tools, and tricks for effective remote collaboration.
Setting Communication Norms for Collaboration
Setting cultural norms around communication is an integral part of effective remote collaboration. Developing the culture before you do the first project together is imperative. Doing this sets the standard of how the teams will be run and how their members will operate.
1. Establish Communication Norms
These norms are how your team will communicate, what channels they will use, and how often they should be in regular communication with you and each other. Without these norms, communication can either become overwhelming or nonexistent.
Lead your team by setting up normative systems and structures on how you will communicate and which method is the preferred method of communication.
2. Don’t Confuse Brief Communications and Clear Communications
Communication can be brief without being clear. The goal of the team is not to be as brief as possible but to be as clear as possible. Striving for clarity will teach the team how to communicate while brevity comes with practice.
Teams that are clear communicators are teams that reach high levels of success.
3. Don’t Bombard Your Team With Messages
There is both a science and an art to communication. The science of communication comes from learning how to communicate. The art of communication develops as you learn when to communicate.
Develop self-awareness of when your messages are more distracting than helpful.
4. Find the Hidden Opportunities Within Written Communications
When you show the group that you value their time, they will value the collaboration.
Can that meeting be an email? Do you need to meet with your team every morning, or can you send a message with the day’s directives? Have you announced to the group how much you value them?
There are many opportunities to grow and develop your team through written communication. You have to find them.
5. Be Intentional About Celebration
What you celebrate, you retain. When you celebrate the team, the team will remain a team. People do not stay where they are not celebrated.
If you want remote collaboration to work, then be intentional about celebrating. Celebrate birthdays, milestones, life events, met goals, etc. What you praise grows.
If you create a communicative culture norm around celebrating people, you create something magnetic that will keep the team together for years to come.
4 Practical Strategies to Promote Remote Collaboration
An idea without a strategy is a waste of energy. Having a strategy gives the idea of the legs it needs to walk on to accomplish its mission.
Here are four practical strategies for effective remote collaboration:
1 . Create a Routine Around Communication
Don’t overthink the routine. Start with something and adjust along the way. Invite feedback from the other collaborators. The life pulse of your team happens when you gather around a standard directive.
With communication routines, you can have daily huddles, weekly “growth” meetings, and monthly info sessions.
Daily huddles are communication checkpoints. There are not long meetings. Their intended purpose is to quickly meet to go over the daily task list, assess if someone needs help, and create a connection point.
Weekly “growth” meetings are team meetings. This type of meeting is where the entire team gathers together to discuss growth opportunities, brainstorm, plan, or get trained.
Monthly info sessions are meetings where the entire team gathers to go over their directive for the month. It is also an opportunity to host training, provide feedback, have breakout sessions, or go over company policy.
Pro tip: Whatever communication routine you decide on is fine. The one thing you must have at every meeting is an agenda. It doesn’t matter how long or short the meeting is. An agenda communicates that you value their time while keeping you on track by sticking to the plan.
2 . Common Tools for Remote Collaborations
When we think of effective remote collaborations, technology is usually at the bottom. Technology being the last of thoughts may be due to the assumption that everyone has access to technology.
Although our assumption may be correct, we still have to address the type of tools that each person will use.
Here are some everyday technology needs that every team needs to address with popular examples:
- Video conferencing software (Zoom or Google Meetup)
- Task management app (Trello, Notion, or Asana)
- Communication app (Voxxer, Volley, Slack, or WhatsApp)
- Headphones (Don’t underestimate the power of noise-canceling headphones)
- Monitors (How many do the team need for the tasks?)
- Remote desktop software (To remotely access office computers for files or repairs)
- Antivirus app (This is a non-negotiable)
- Password management app (1password or Dashlane)
- Cloud storage (Google Drive or Dropbox)
- Office suite (MS Office)
Pro tip: Create a list of all necessary apps with descriptions. All collaborators should be using the same program to cut down on miscommunication. Also, it is essential to note that each app will have a learning curve.
Picking the best tool for the team with the lowest learning curve while promoting simplicity in the workspace is a win.
3 . Navigate Through Your Expectations
To begin setting healthy expectations within remote collaborations, one must first understand the nature of expectations.
Expectations are thoughts about how we desire people to act and operate within specific contexts. Because the essence of remote work is that each collaborator is working out of a different location, expectations are not suggestions.
Expectations that are correctly communicated are requirements for healthy, remote collaboration communities.
Before you even begin working together, having good communication that defines the team expectations early on in the partnership is key to effective collaboration. When determining the expectations of your remote collaboration, you must be realistic and extremely specific.
An unclear expectation leaves room for confusion. As you may know, confusion causes insecurity and ineffectiveness, which ultimately hinders the progress of you and the team.
To help navigate expectations, make a list that applies to everyone (including yourself). Once there is an outline of your overall expectations in place, bring the team together so that you guys can openly discuss. The goal is to come to a census on how the entire team will operate and behave.
Here are some possible team expectations:
- Be present for all scheduled meetings.
- Plan for expected absences ahead of time.
- Focus on your area of work.
- Dress appropriately for the workplace.
- Be courteous at all times.
- Maintain a positive, helpful attitude.
- Ensure that you don’t leave gaps that others will have to pick up.
Of course, you would have to define what each of these looks like for your context. However, the more work you put into clarity before the team works together, the easier it will be to navigate conversations and challenges.
Pro tip: Do not create these alone. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and neither should team building. The more you can invite buy-in and insight from the team, the greater the opportunity for the expectations to be followed and shared by everyone.
Remember, people will never do what they are told. People like to know that their voice matters. Collaborate on the expectations for the team and watch the team become unstoppable.
4 . Call the Team to a Higher Standard
When building a culture that can adapt to ongoing changes and overcome challenges in a competitive environment while working remotely, we must set the foundation of that team with growth in mind.
Think of it as a house. If the house’s foundation is faulty, then the house cannot stand. It doesn’t matter how amazing the house is. If the house has any challenges with the foundation, eventually, the house will fall.
Collaborative teams work similarly. When you are building a remote team, the foundation of that team is the most essential part of the process.
Every effective team is committed to the team members in ways that push everyone to be the best version of themselves. Without high standards and high levels of accountability then, the remote collaboratory team will not work. The team will be about each person trying to look good and be the best instead of putting the interest of the whole team ahead of their own.
We, as leaders, must commit to creating healthy teams and not just effective teams. Effective teams get work done. Healthy teams grow through the work and can eventually handle increasingly complex challenges.
The goal isn’t just to complete the mission but to grow as a team and move from job completion to innovation. This takes accountability, high standards of behavior, and increasing levels of commitment.
Without high-performance standards and strong accountability, even the best teams eventually collapse.
Call the remote team to be the best by thinking:
- Excellence over perfectionism
- High performance over mediocrity
- Accountability over irresponsibility
- Initiative over laziness
- Relationship over codependence
- Respect over contempt
- Humility over pride
- Honor over jealousy
- Collaboration over competition
Then, hold each other accountable in respectful ways. Talk through challenges. Call out inconsistencies. Give the team a right to call you out on something that’s causing you to live at a lower standard.
Remote collaboration is a goal many strive to reach, but it isn’t enough to do a remote collaboration. Doing things to do them doesn’t move the needle.
Doing busywork or trendy work only makes us feel like we are accomplishing goals. What sets companies apart is their unwavering focus on remote collaboration as a centralized mission and not just another thing to do.
As a growing company looking to expand your influence and reach, realize that remote collaboration shouldn’t be the focus. Instead, the focal point needs to be on how to be effective at remote collaboration.
Make it a part of the mission and vision of the expanding company. Allow it to be a core value that pushes you to expand and grow.
Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com